Up to 17 jobs could go at Far North lines company Top Energy.

The company, which has 175 staff, says the proposed job cuts are due to a combination of a downturn in its contracting work around the Pacific, the completion of major network upgrades, and new health and safety legislation.

Affected staff, who are based mainly at the Puketona and Kaitaia depots, were informed yesterday afternoon. Consultation is now under way.

The roles which could go are in management, field services, administration, construction and planning. In addition, the company is proposing to transfer eight roles from its contracting services business to its network team. Top Energy has three vacancies staff could be redeployed to.


Chief executive Russell Shaw said the company was a close-knit team so staff were "understandably concerned" about the proposed changes.

Over the past decade the company had invested heavily in improving the network, including constructing new substations and lines and refurbishing old substations.

Top Energy also had a strong contracting presence in the Pacific with projects such as connecting Nadi Airport and resorts at Denarau and Naisoso in Fiji, rebuilding the network in Nauru, and managing a Kiwi team restoring power after last year's devastating storms in Fiji.

However, Mr Shaw said the amount of work available in the Pacific had dropped significantly and was not expected to pick up again in the foreseeable future.

Added to that were new health and safety requirements which had forced a complete change in the way Top Energy carried out line maintenance, especially on live lines.

"The combination of completing our major upgrades, changes to live line practices and the reduction of work in the Pacific has affected the overall availability of work," Mr Shaw said.

The power industry organiser for E Tu, Joe Gallagher, said the union was "extremely disappointed".

"The guys are pretty gutted. They're talking about taking out four field staff from Kaitaia and four from Puketona. They're already working pretty hard and the company has admitted there are fatigue issues. This will increase the pressure on those who are left."

It also meant the workers' skills would be lost to the Far North because they would have to move to Whangarei or further south to provide for their families. The union would be making submissions against the proposal, Mr Gallagher said.